FILLMORE — Just west of the Pahvant Mountain Range lies a stretch of highway that covers about 40 miles, winding its way through small communities from Scipio to Kanosh.
The towns boast meager populations of 200 to 300, while Fillmore flaunts a formidable 2,500 residents.
Across these townships, the front porches and lawns are checkered with navy blue "We Are Millard" signs, pledging support for the Millard High School Eagles. "High school athletics is not all that matters, but sometimes it seems like it," said Cody Moat, a teacher and coach at the school that holds a graduating class of fewer than 100 students.
With the spring sports season likely canceled, the fallout for the community and high school athletes means little in comparison to the global spread of a dangerous virus. For Millard senior Shade Woodard, however, the lost season has cost him the chance to earn an athletic scholarship, which would provide the means for him to attend college in the fall.
"I was hoping to set some school records and get noticed," Woodard said. "Without scholarships, I really can't afford to go to school right now, so I'd have to take a break and work for a while. I was really working hard to get faster so I could get those scholarships."
Woodard is a jack of all trades who happens to be an outstanding track-and-field athlete. As the school’s student body president, he also played football, basketball, baseball, ran cross country, and, as a premier athlete at the school, threw his hat in the track-and-field ring the last few years.
He discovered he had real talent and potential in that sport if he dedicated himself to training. With minimal preparation before the 2019 season, he finished the year by placing in the top three in all four of the events he competed in at the state championships to help Millard become back-to-back track-and-field 2A state champions.
"I thought if we could get him to train a little bit more and change it up a little bit, he would be pretty hard to beat," said Moat, who ran track at Southern Utah University.
For his senior year, Woodard dedicated himself to lifting weights and a running regimen, in addition to the team sports he continued to participate in. As spring came around, he was fighting off the remnants of an illness and decided not to unveil his improved run times in the first track meet of the year until he was fully recovered.
Next thing he knew, his baseball tournament in Kanab was canceled.
Without scholarships, I really can't afford to go to school right now, so I'd have to take a break and work for a while.
At first, the team thought it was because it had been raining, but soon they realized what was happening as the state began to take precautions in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
"I had no idea it was so bad because, you know, we're kind of cut off from the bigger cities and we didn't really see how much it was going to affect us," Woodard said. "So all the hard work I'd put in, I didn't even get to see if it paid off or not."
Moat said he had been in contact with at least one college track coach to tell them about his star athlete, but he admitted that it’s difficult to try and describe what he thinks Woodard can do without the opportunity for him to show it.
"It definitely puts a damper on things," Moat said. "It comes to your senior year and you really need to shine."
Moat said there is still hope the season will be revived at some point, possibly in the summer, but it’s all speculation at this juncture. In addition to affecting Woodard and the other seniors, the spoiled season limits exposure the juniors would have as well in what is a pivotal year for recruitment.
The slogan Woodard chose as student body president for the school year was "Looking Forward to Looking Back," and despite the disappointment, he is trying to help his school find ways to see the positive through this tough time when most students are feeling dejected.
Woodard lives in Scipio, a 30-minutes commute to and from school each day. He served as class president for three of his four high school years, in addition to the myriad of sports he played, which had him practically living in Fillmore at the school. He is trying to enjoy the chance to spend some time at home with his family. He said this pandemic is something they can tell their future kids about.
"The senior class has been pretty close with each other. I mean, we're a small class where everyone knows everyone," Woodard said. "The majority of us are really wishing that we still had a few more moments with each other. Not being able to get the satisfaction of seeing it to the end has been hard on us.
"We don't really have closure yet."
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said Woodard took first in two of the four events he competed in at the state tournament, when in fact that was his quarterfinal results. The article has since been corrected.